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On Bryce’s Mind

By Staff | Apr 22, 2013

April is Autism Awareness Month, and it reminds me of a guy I know and went to school with.

He had, and still has, an autism spectrum disorder: Asperger’s syndrome. School was hell for him because he was a target for bullies. He’s a smart guy, he could talk your ear off about a variety of subjects, but there were things he didn’t know. When people were joking or being sarcastic was a big one. What the right and wrong things to do in social situations was another. He’d play with things like they were toys, he didn’t pay attention in class, and he had very few friends. He also focused on little things instead of the “big picture”. He could write and draw very well, and could really rip it up on guitar and bass.

His parents found out that he had Asperger’s in the fourth grade, while it was still a relatively new, and misunderstood, diagnosis. Some of what was going on with him seemed to fit the criteria. When he found out, he really didn’t tell very many people. He still hasn’t told very many people to this day, out of disdain for weird looks and having to answer questions he may not know how to answer. Not to mention the over-thought fear of losing what few friends he has over something both he and they don’t understand.

To this day, he has both a high school diploma and a college degree. He’s gainfully employed, but he hasn’t told his bosses he has Asperger’s. Nor has anyone else.

He’s not alone. According to an organization called Autism Speaks, an estimated 1 in 50 school-age children has an autism spectrum disorder, versus 1 in 88 as estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Autism spectrum disorders (or ASD)-which include Asperger’s, autism, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified)-are more common in boys than girls, considering 1 in 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls are diagnosed. There are celebrities with ASD, including actress Daryl Hannah, actor Dan Aykroyd, and musician/producer Adam Young from the band “Owl City”.

There has been speculation as to what causes ASD, including genetics and environmental factors. It was speculated that MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccines, and vaccines containing a preservative called thimerosal, caused autism or autism symptoms to emerge in children. However, scientists conducting studies on it have found no real link between vaccines and ASD, and any emergence of symptoms post-vaccination are a rare occurrence, and may be an indicator of an underlying genetic or medical condition.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Conn., it had been speculated that shooter Adam Lanza had an autism spectrum disorder. But according to a CNN article, the Autism Society said in a statement that there is no link between ASD and pre-meditated violence, and that people with ASD were not inclined to commit acts of violence, especially one on that scale.

People with Asperger’s, autism, or any other kind of ASD may be different, and what they have has, as of yet, no cure, but they are not “diseased”. They want you to accept them for who they are, rather than what they are. They don’t want to be treated differently, they want to be treated just like anyone else would be.

At the same time, if you suspect your child or someone you know may have an ASD, it is a good idea to do some research. But unless you are a physician, do not make the diagnosis yourself.

And as for the guy I knew, you can ask me about him, or who he is, since I didn’t identify him. The answer may be surprising.

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